The Department of Health and Human Services responded to allegations of abuse and harassment of child migrants at a Texas migrant facility, saying that it has “zero-tolerance” for those kinds of actions.
“HHS takes its humanitarian mission seriously and while unaccompanied migrant children are in our care under the law, we strive to provide a safe space while they go through immigration proceedings,” the agency said in a statement, according to Fox News.
“HHS has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate sexual behavior at all UC care provider facilities.”
The complaints alleged four separate kinds of child abuse were taking place at the Freeman Coliseum, one of the locations where children are being warehoused because border facilities do not have enough capacity to handle the flood of unaccompanied children crossing the border.
Federal officials said the site was holding about 1,645 minors and that 283 coronavirus-positive youth “remain in medical isolation,” according to KENS-TV.
Abbott said he believed the allegations of sexual abuse, insufficient staffing, unfed children and COVID-positive migrants not being separated came from someone inside the facility.
“The Biden administration opened the borders and failed to plan for the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border, and now we are faced with our worst fears — allegations of child abuse and neglect,” the Texas Republican said, calling for Biden to close the facility.
“The facility should shut down immediately. The children should be moved to better staffed and better secured locations,” Abbott added, according to The Associated Press.
Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz called for an investigation into the allegations.
“The allegations of horrific abuse of children in the custody of the Biden administration are tragic,” Cruz told Fox News on Thursday.
“We need to immediately get to the bottom of what is happening to these children and President Biden needs to step up and address the driving factor behind this — his crisis at the southern border.”
Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores told the AP that conditions were not as dire as the governor said and there was plenty of food for the children as well as a separate area for anyone who tested positive for COVID-19.
“I wish the governor had done his tour before the press conference when he politicized children,” she said.
HHS policy requires care providers to take action to protect children by reporting any abuse allegations and suspending employees when it deems necessary.
As of Saturday morning, there are 16,000 unaccompanied minors in HHS care and 4,000 in Customs and Border Protection custody.
In March, 172,000 migrants were stopped at the border, including 18,890 unaccompanied children, according to the CBP.
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